Chapter 17

The croquet party to which the Princess Tverskaia had invited Anna was to consist of two ladies and their adorers. These two ladies were the chief representatives of a select new Peterburg circle, nicknamed, in imitation of some imitation, Les sept merveilles du monde. These ladies belonged to a circle which, though of the highest society, was utterly hostile to that in which Anna moved. Moreover, old Stremov, one of the most influential people in Peterburg, and the admirer of Liza Merkalova, was Alexei Alexandrovich's enemy in the political world. From all these considerations Anna had not meant to go, and the hints in Princess Tverskaia's note referred to her refusal. But now Anna was eager to go, in the hope of seeing Vronsky.

Anna arrived at Princess Tverskaia's earlier than the other guests.

At the very moment of her entry, Vronsky's footman, with his side whiskers combed out, and looking like a Kammerjunker, went in too. He stopped at the door, and, taking off his cap, let her pass. Anna recognized him, and only then recalled that Vronsky had told her the day before that he would not come. Most likely he was sending a note to say so.

As she took off her outer garment in the hall, she heard the footman say, rolling his r's even like a Kammerjunker: `From the Count for the Princess,' as he handed over the note.

She longed to question him as to where his master was. She longed to turn back and send him a letter to come and see her, or to go herself to see him. But none of the three courses was possible. Already she heard bells ringing ahead of her to announce her arrival, and Princess Tverskaia's footman was standing at the open door waiting for her to pass into the inner rooms.

`The Princess is in the garden; she will be informed immediately. Would you be pleased to walk into the garden?' announced another footman in another room.

The position of uncertainty, of indecision, was still the same as at home - worse, in fact, since it was impossible to take any step, impossible to see Vronsky, and she had to remain here among outsiders, in company so uncongenial to her present mood. But she was wearing a dress that she knew suited her. She was not alone; all around was that luxurious setting of idleness that she was used to, and she felt less wretched than at home. She was not forced to think what she had to do. Everything would be done of itself. On meeting Betsy coming toward her in a white gown that struck her by its elegance, Anna smiled to her just as she always did. Princess Tverskaia was walking with Tushkevich and a young lady, a relation, who, to the great joy of her parents in the provinces, was spending the summer with the fashionable Princess.

There was probably something unusual about Anna, for Betsy noticed it at once.

`I slept badly,' answered Anna, looking intently at the footman who came to meet them, and, as she supposed, brought Vronsky's note.

`How glad I am you've come!' said Betsy. `I'm tired, and was just longing to have some tea before they come. You might go,' she turned to Tushkevich, `with Masha, and try the croquet ground over there, where they've been clipping it. We shall have time to talk a little over tea, we'll have a cozy chat, eh?' she said in English to Anna, with a smile, pressing the hand which held a parasol.

`Yes, especially as I can't stay very long with you. I'm forced to go on to old Madame Vrede. I've been promising to go for a century,' said Anna, to whom lying, alien as it was to her nature, had become not merely simple and natural in society, but a positive source of satisfaction. Why she said this, which she had not thought of a second before, she could not have explained. She had said it simply from the reflection that as Vronsky would not be here, she had better secure her own freedom, and try to see him somehow. But why she had spoken of old Hoffraulein Vrede, whom she had to go and see, as she had to see many other people, she could not have explained; and yet, as it afterward turned out, had she cudgeled her brains for the most cunning subterfuge to meet Vronsky, she could have thought of nothing better.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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